Before discovering the sun’s benefits (particularly vitamin D) on our body, people rarely got exposed to the sun. Not that long ago, tanning started becoming a new cultural trend, just like skin illnesses started becoming a thing, due to extended exposure and unprotected skin.
Whether it is sunny or cloudy, it is now highly recommended to protect your skin against sun rays with a sun protection. Creams, lotions, sprays... many possibilities exist but we are here going to focus on sun creams.
With our solid sun cream with Moringa oil, we have worked hard to offer you a zero waste product, in a cardboard packaging, that protects your skin and the environment. A sun cream is mainly made out of oil, a UV filter, and other additions to make it smoother or to add a perfume for example. Its efficiency is measured thanks to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF). It must also be noted that according to the UV filters used, the cream can be harmful to our body and the planet. Choosing a high-quality sun protection is therefore crucial.
Don't worry if you haven't understood everything mentioned in the previous paragraph. We're going to explain everything here: the meaning of these acronyms and everything we consider important to know about a sun cream!
UVA/UVB - what does this mean?
UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays are part of the ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. Invisible, they don't heat the skin and are distinguished by their wave lengths.
UVA rays are longer and measure around 400 to 315 nanometres, UVB rays measure around 315 to 280 nm, their impact is therefore different on our skin.
UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are the reason why we tan, why we get wrinkles, spots, premature skin ageing, and most importantly some types of skin cancers. These UV rays represent 95% of rays reaching our skin.
UVB rays enter the skin less deeply. They are responsible for sunburns and of most skin cancers (around 90%). These represent the remaining 5% of rays that pass through clouds.
In more specific terms, we are affected by UVA and UVB rays when exposed to the sun. But that's not it. Summer isn't the only time of the year when UV rays reach your skin. This season is of course when sun rays are the most intense and when we wear fewer clothes, but UV rays can also get through clouds and be reflected by water and snow for example.
Please note that on a sun cream label, it is required to circle the UVA term to certify that this protection is also efficient against this type of UV rays.
And the SPF written on all sun protections, what does it mean?
SPF means Sun Protection Factor.
An SPF is what measures a sun protection's efficiency against UVB rays mainly. This factor is international, so whether you are in Europe or on the other side of the world, SPFs are the same!
It is divided into four protection levels: 6 to 10, 15 to 25, 30 to 50, 50 and more.
To go into more details, here's some easy math to understand how an SPF's efficiency is calculated:
- Take the average time (in minutes) it would take a person to get sunburn without any protection - say 15 minutes.
- Multiply this time by the protection factor - so 15 minutes x 10 (for an SPF10)
- We now have 15 x 10 = 150
- This means that thanks to an SPF10, the first sunburn will appear after 150 minutes of exposure.
Careful! Don't forget that this is only a theoretical calculation and that many other factors are to be taken into account such as skin type, exposure duration and location, etc.
Since 2006, as a safety measure for users, the European Commission has grouped all factors over 50 under the name 50+. Indeed, a factor 100 could be confusing, since a 100% guarantee protection doesn't exist.
The higher the SPF, the higher the protection. True. But what is less known is the real difference between the different protection factors. Amongst the high SPFs, the difference is actually tiny! An SPF20 blocks 95% of rays, an SPF30 – 97% and an SPF50 – 98%! Good to know.
An SPF50 doesn't offer twice as much protection as an SPF25 as one might think.
Our sunscreen has an SPF25. The protection difference being very slight between an SPF25 and an SPF50, we wanted to keep our sun cream’s composition short and simple by choosing only one sun filter.
And UV filters, what are their characteristics?
Filters or sunscreens are the ingredients that protect our skin from the sun's radiation. Two types exist: mineral and chemical.
Mineral filters are made out of mineral microparticles. The only two authorised are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These mineral filters are mainly found in organic sun creams as today, they are the only ones that can be certified organic. Once the sun cream has been applied, the mineral filter's action is immediate. This type of sun cream works by reflecting and dispersing the sun's UV rays.
Chemical or synthetic filters are molecules found in the majority of sun creams. With their chemical action, these filters penetrate the skin to absorb UV rays instead of the skin and are effective around 30 minutes after application (this is how long the skin needs to absorb the cream).
Although these two types of filters have different ways of protecting our skin, they both remain effective. Out of conviction, we preferred to opt for a mineral filter for our sun cream, zinc oxide, which was for us the safest for our health, but also for the environment.
What are the impacts of sun creams on our body and planet?
Some chemical filters are suspected of being endocrine disruptors (don't forget they are absorbed by the skin). They also strongly impact seas and oceans, especially corals. Coral reefs are home to many species and are the basis of many marine ecosystems. According to a study by Environmental Health Perspectives (2008), the chemical compounds in sun creams are what are causing their bleaching or even death. The Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Zurich has also demonstrated that certain chemical filters could affect hormonal activity (malformations and reproductive problems).
To limit the impact of certain sun cream in oceans, in 2018 the State of Hawaii in the United States was one of the pioneers in banning sun creams containing oxybenzone and octinoxate (chemical filters). Today, more and more sun cream free zones are emerging around the world. These are places where some sun protections are banned in order to preserve the coastline and protect ecosystems.
But should we still continue using sunscreen?
The answer is yes, no one is exempt from the sun's rays and sun creams are necessary to protect our skin.
But the simple fact of putting sun cream isn’t enough. You should also carefully consider the following factors:
- Exposure: avoid exposure between 12 and 4pm and don't expose babies or young children directly to the sun.
- Product application: it is better to put too much on than not enough! Also remember to reapply sun cream regularly, more so if you are sweating or going for a swim.
- The product's expiry date: if the cream is out of date, it may lose effectiveness and therefore offer less protection, this is especially valid for creams with chemical filters (mineral filters don't lose effectiveness over time). Before opening, our cream can be stored 30 months away from moisture and 6 months after opening.
- Other types of protections: accessories that will help to protect you like a hat or cap, sunglasses, swimming t-shirts, a parasol, etc.
If you had to remember only three things from this article, here they are:
- A product's effectiveness is measured thanks to its SPF, but above all on how often and how much cream you put on.
- The main difference between mineral and chemical filters is how these filters protect your skin from UV rays. The impact of chemical filters is also significant on a health and environmental level.
- We are not all equal in the face of the sun's effects and it is crucial to protect ourselves. 😊